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A few days ago, my little family went out shopping together. Max had recently opened a new outlet and I wanted to check it out. We were at the cash counter, when my husband brought a wee little tee, which said "I have Super Powers." It was adorable! I checked the size, "6-12 months," it also said, "boys." I was surprised! What is so boyish about having super powers? I was going to buy it for my girl, anyway. However, there was a discount when you bought two and so I made my way back to look for another one.
I went to the table where the girls clothes were on display, and found a tee saying"jungle party tonight," seriously? Boys don't go to jungle parties? They're missing out!
I went to the boys section - "motorcycle..." Yes! I wanted this one! But it said "motorcycle boy"...not cool. My daughter is as capable of riding a motorcycle as a boy, unless society thinks she should be at a jungle party tonight while boys zip around on motorcycles. I ended up picking up another tee from the boy's section that said... "It wasn't me... it was dad!" So the next time my daughter farts, we'll all know that it was actually her dad! Because, you know, girls fart too.
I didn't have time to browse their collection for kids properly so I came back home and checked their online store. There was such a startling difference in the messages being given to girls and boys. Though, thankfully, I saw a few tees encouraging girls to follow their dreams. I'm curious to know why boys have a tee saying 'mighty tough' while girls get a tee saying 'I'm so sweet"? Both these statements should ideally equally apply to girls, as well, as boys. Otherwise, we're giving rise to a culture where boys are expected to be tough and girls expected to be sweet, and when either gender violates these prescribed norms there are negative consequences. The tough girl is too boyish and the sweet boy too much of a sissy?
I have nothing against the store, I just want to bring to light the fact that even when children are six months old, we begin to thoughtlessly mold children according to strict gender norms. Boys (based on the few tees I saw) are perceived as being interested in football, trucks,and wild animals, while girls are perceived as interested in fashion, cupcakes, and mermaids. There is no room for individual difference.
The fact is that sex is determined at birth (boy/girl), but gender (male/female) is a product of socialization. The healthiest person is one who falls around the middle of the traditionally male and female characteristics. One who has a healthy balance of being tough and being sweet. A person who can be independent when needed, and dependent when necessary. One who knows when to be expressive and when to be reserved. A person who willingly gives and receives help.
We do our children a disservice when we teach them that it's okay for girls to cry but boy's are mighty tough and needn't shed a tear. I am yet to meet a woman who appreciates that her husband is not emotionally expressive. But things don't have to remain this way. We can teach our children how to behave in healthy ways, irrespective of their sex. As parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and even retail outlets we have a responsibility to raise healthy children who will tomorrow be healthy adults. Let us pause and reflect about how we are raising our girls and boys, and create change where needed.
And for the record, my daughter has super powers.